Bonita Applebum

Album: People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (1990)
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Songfacts®:

  • Thanks to A Tribe Called Quest, Bonita Applebum is one of the most famous fictional characters in hip-hop. In the song, Tribe's Q-Tip puts on the charm, telling her things some brothers don't.

    We don't learn much about Bonita other than her measurements (a robust 38-24-37), but her name comes up a lot - it's repeated 54 times in the song. Filled with vowels, it's great to sing and very memorable.
  • Around this time, degrading women was becoming fashionable in hip-hop, as were rhymes about violence. A Tribe Called Quest bucked this trend with "Bonita," a deft and understated song that celebrates the girl (something LL Cool J did a year later on "Around The Way Girl"). It's also very respectful, with the hint of sex coming at the end of the song when Q-Tip says: "And if you need 'em, I got crazy prophylactics."

    In 1990, this was racy enough to warrant a "clean" version of the song with "prophylactics" (condoms) edited out.
  • This was released as a single from A Tribe Called Quest's first album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. The group had four members at the time; Jarobi White left the group after the album and wasn't replaced. Like the other singles, including "Can I Kick It?" and "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," it didn't make the pop charts, which raised their temperatures when Vanilla Ice took off. "How come someone like that can be Number One while we're sitting here struggling with our crazy originality?" Q-Tip asked.

    The song and album were later hailed as classics, but at the time it wasn't clear that Tribe's intricate, soft-spoken songs would find an audience.
  • A few different songs were sampled to make up the track, including a string riff from "Rotary Connection," a 1967 song by Memory Band. That section of "Bonita Applebum" was later sampled by the Fugees in their hit cover of "Killing Me Softly With His Song."

    Other samples in "Bonita" include "Daylight" by RAMP and "Fool Yourself" by Little Feat.
  • The music video was directed by Charles Stone III, best known for his movies Drumline and Mr. 3000. It incorporates animation in the graffiti style A Tribe Called Quest often used.
  • "Bonita" means "beautiful" in Spanish. Like Madonna's island in her 1986 hit "La Isla Bonita."

    "Applebum" implies a bum (butt) like an apple, giving the song a loose translation of "Beautiful Apple Butt."
  • A remix called the "Hootie Mix" was released along with radio edits and 12" mixes of the song. The British DJ CJ Mackintosh also mashed it up with the 1982 Carly Simon song "Why" to create a popular version.
  • Sam Hollander, a hit songwriter whose credits include "High Hopes" by Panic! at the Disco and "Rock Me" by One Direction, cites this song as a main influence. "It's one of the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard, but it's so funky and the wordplay is so intricate," he told Songfacts. "The seductive nature of what Q-Tip was doing just blew my mind. I've listened to that song about 500 times."

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